Mark My Words | The LGBT Community and the Israeli-Palestinian Divide

No matter which side of the Israeli-Palestinian divide you’re on, and there are many, you might ask what is the responsibility of the LGBT community in this debate?

I’m not going to discuss religion or nationality here. Israel has a government that has programs and policies that many consider to be anti-Palestinian. For that reason, some people have embraced a boycott of Israel. A boycott of Israel, which is a government, is not in itself anti-Semitic, unless you connect it to religion and attack that religion rather than the state. That would be anti-Semitic.


So, a boycott on political positions is acceptable, but does that mean you’re pro-Palestine?

In the case of LGBT people or those who support the LGBT equality movement, being pro-Palestine is, at this time, a dangerous position to take.

The Palestinian Authority Police who control the West Bank, along with Hamas who control the Gaza Strip, are homophobic. LGBT activists in Palestine, specifically the group alQaws, are calling them out, and we should be too. If we call out Uganda for its “Kill the Gays” bill, why not also call out Palestine for a similar law in the Gaza Strip?

While I am a full supporter of the two-state solution, I am not a fan of the policies of the current Israeli government. I am a firm believer in the need for a Jewish State, and I would also support an Islamic State if the Palestinians chose to be one or for a separate state of any kind, but I don’t support the call for a boycott of Israel, unless you call for a boycott on the Palestinian States as well.

When asked if I support a boycott of Israel by someone in my community, I often ask, “Do you support a boycott of the Palestinian lands where LGBT people are killed?” They’re often shocked by that answer. I follow up by telling them that I’m certainly not thrilled with the current government of the United States, but this is my country and I know the issues, and then I usually ask: "Do you think we should ask Israelis or Palestinians to boycott the U.S. for the treatment of immigrants and people of color?"

Rather than a boycott of a different culture, our time can be better utilized fighting injustice in our own. Israel might not treat Palestine well, but Palestinians in power currently wish to condemn and sometimes kill LGBT people, and they publicly say so. Mahmoud Ishtiwi, a former commander in the armed wing of Hamas, who according to the New York Times, "was accused of moral turpitude, by which Hamas meant homosexuality” and then was tortured and shot to death in 2016. Whether he was gay is a matter of dispute; what is not in dispute is that Hamas used homosexuality as a legitimate reason to kill him. If you call out Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, why are you not calling out Hamas and the Palestinian Authority Police for their treatment and killing of LGBT people?

A TV program showed last year set in the West Bank and Gaza called “Out of Focus.” It was meant to be a comedy about a group of gay people living in Gaza. People demonstrated en mass in the streets and called for the actors’ imprisonment, and the producers were called in for questioning by the Palestinian Authorities in Ramallah for breaking Islamic law. It was taken off the air for being an offense against Islam simply for having LGBT characters. Can you imagine, then, the treatment of LGBT persons living under that threat? Ramallah is the capital of the West Bank where there are no LGBT organizations or public meeting places. Even Uganda has LGBT organizations. The Palestinian lands do have something in common with Uganda — some LGBT people escape frightened for their lives.